Europe should count itself lucky that a leftwing anti-austerity party won the Greek elections, swept into office by citizens who've had enough. Elsewhere in Europe, seven years of stupid, punitive, and self-defeating austerity policies have led to gains by the far right. If a radical left party is now in power in Athens and sending tremors through Europe's financial markets, the EU's smug leaders and their banker allies in Frankfurt, Brussels and Berlin have only themselves to blame. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the winning Syriza coalition, says he doesn't want Greece to leave the Euro. He just wants Europe's leaders to renegotiate Greece's debt. It's about time. This crisis could have ended years ago with far less suffering for ordinary people who had no responsibilities for the offending policies. Greece, after all, has about two percent of the EU's total economic product -- and it has about 25 percent less than it had before the crisis. Writing off Greece's debt outright would have cost peanuts, and still would.
The Greeks have deactivated the switch that threatened to blow Europe sky high. Antonis Samaras's New Democracy party victory in Greece does not in and of itself solve Athens' problems, nor those plaguing the rest of Europe's capitals. The boxer is still on the ropes, but the bell has been rung, ending the round; and that gives Europe time to recover, though it will have to keep fighting. In addition this week, if seen as part and parcel to what happened in Greece, the result of France's legislative elections and the majority that President Hollande now boasts both act as a serious warning to Angela Merkel in Germany. The message is clear: we are willing to go forward, but the pernicious austerity strategy that is pushing us into the abyss must be reconsidered.